NY saxophonist Steve Lehman's Octet integrates delicate and highly nuanced spectral harmonies into meticulously crafted rhythmic settings, advanced and compelling jazz.
Travail, Transformation and Flow
Label: Pi Recordings
Released in: USA
"Travail, Transformation, and Flow, an important new recording from the Steve Lehman Octet that marks the first fully realized exploration of spectral harmony in the history of recorded jazz. Widely regarded as one of the most advanced musical minds of his generation, Lehman integrates delicate and highly nuanced spectral harmonies into meticulously crafted rhythmic settings. The result is an all-encompassing musical universe that advances a singular conception of rhythm, harmony, and improvisational form.
In spectral music, the physics of sound informs almost every compositional decision. Attack, decay, and timbre provide the source material for orchestration and musical form. The most prominent overtones of a given sound - of a clarinet or a church bell, for example - create a rich framework for microtonal harmonies that, with the help of computer analysis, are organized according to frequency relationships, as opposed to the intervals of a musical scale. Individual overtones are then assigned to specific instruments in an ensemble, and blended together to create striking new harmonies.
Lehman's fascination with spectral music began at Wesleyan University in 2000, when he was first introduced to the work of spectral music's most renowned practitioners Tristan Murail and Gerard Grisey. After attending the U.S. premiere of Murail's Le Partage Des Eaux, at Carnegie Hall in 2001, Lehman invited Murail to speak at Wesleyan and eventually began intensive studies with him at Columbia University in 2006.
On Travail, Transformation, and Flow, Lehman draws extensively from his work with Murail and, remarkably, reimagines spectral harmony as a platform for improvisation. In "Echoes," shimmering microtonal harmonies create a richly imagined setting for Lehman's razor-sharp alto solo over spectral chord changes. Listen to how the trumpet and tenor reinforce the upper harmonics of the tuba, and fuse with the vibraphone to produce an almost electronic sheen. "Dub" and "No Neighborhood Rough Enough," showcase Tyshawn Sorey's astonishing drum work and juxtapose otherworldly sonorities with explosive improvisations. Other compositions, such as "Rudreshm," and "Alloy," provide a counterpoint to the more explicitly spectral works, and extend the ideas put forth on Lehman's 2007 quintet recording, On Meaning. That recording, like this one, underscores Lehman's profound assimilation of Jackie McLean's most forward-looking Blue Note releases; in many ways, Travail, Transformation, and Flow remains deeply connected to the seminal works of that era, including McLean's One Step Beyond and Grachan Moncur's Evolution. Lehman's tempo-stretching arrangement of "Living In The World Today", from Wu-Tang Clan member GZA/Genius's now legendary Liquid Swords, provides a bold conclusion to the album, and makes explicit, the connections between experimental hip-hop, glitch-based IDM (Intelligent Dance Music) and modern spectral music that permeate the entire recording.
Lehman's cutting-edge compositional vision is brought to life by his remarkable ensembles; in this case, a powerhouse octet, featuring an all-star assemblage of performer/improvisers who represent the absolute state-of-the-art on their respective instruments: Mark Shim on tenor saxophone, Drew Gress on bass, Tyshawn Sorey, on drums, Jonathan Finlayson on trumpet, Jose Davila on tuba, Tim Albright on trombone, and Chris Dingman on vibraphone. Lehman's own playing bristles with a white-hot energy that is at once surgically precise and deeply visceral. Throughout Travail, Transformation, and Flow, one senses that he and his entire ensemble are engaged in a passionate dialogue with their musical surroundings. Microtonal playing slices through spectral chord changes; muscular solos negotiate changing speeds and shifting tempi with prodigious ease; and innovative instrumental voices move together to create a bold new sound-world and an electrifying new model for improvised music."-Pi Recordings
• Show Bio for Steve Lehman
"Described as "a state-of-the-art musical thinker" and a "dazzling saxophonist," by The New York Times, Steve Lehman (b. New York City, 1978) is a composer, performer, educator, and scholar who works across a broad spectrum of experimental musical idioms. Lehman's pieces for large orchestra and chamber ensembles have been performed by the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), So Percussion, Kammerensemble Neue Musik Berlin, the JACK Quartet, the PRISM Saxophone Quartet, and the Talea Ensemble. His recent recording, Mise en Abîme (Pi, 2014) was called the #1 Jazz Album of the year by NPR Music and The Los Angeles Times. And his previous recording, Travail, Transformation & Flow (Pi, 2009), was chosen as the #1 Jazz Album of the year by The New York Times.
The recipient of a 2015 Guggenheim Fellowship and a 2014 Doris Duke Artist Award, Lehman is an alto saxophonist who has performed and recorded nationally and internationally with his own ensembles and with those led by Anthony Braxton, Vijay Iyer, Jason Moran, Meshell Ndegeocello, and High Priest of Anti-Pop Consortium, among many others. His recent electro-acoustic music has focused on the development of computer-driven models for improvisation, based in the Max/MSP programming environment. Lehman's work has been favorably reviewed in Artforum, Downbeat Magazine, The New York Times, Newsweek, and The Wire, and on National Public Radio, the BBC, and SWR.
As a Fulbright scholar in France during the 2002-2003 academic year, Lehman began researching the reception of African-American experimental composers working in France during the 1970s. His article in the journal Critical Studies in Improvisation, "I Love You with an Asterisk: African-American Experimental Composers and the French Jazz Press, 1970-1980," is based on his Fulbright research. More recently, Lehman has published writings and presented lectures on a wide range of topics, including jazz pedagogy, rhythm cognition, and European notions of American experimentalism. His current scholarship, including a forthcoming contribution to the Oxford Handbook of Spectral Music, examines the overlapping histories of spectral composition and jazz improvisation.
Lehman received his B.A. (2000) and M.A. in Composition (2002) from Wesleyan University where he studied under Anthony Braxton, Jay Hoggard, and Alvin Lucier, while concurrently working with Jackie McLean at the Hartt School of Music. He received his doctorate with distinction in Music Composition from Columbia University (2012), where his principal teachers included Tristan Murail and George Lewis.
Lehman has taught undergraduate courses at Wesleyan University, the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris, New School University, and Columbia University, and has presented lectures at Amherst College, UC Berkeley, The Berklee School of Music, The Banff Centre, The Royal Academy of Music in London, and IRCAM in Paris, where he was a 2011 research fellow.
Beginning in September 2016, Lehman will join the music faculty at The California Institute of the Arts."-Steve Lehman Website (http://www.stevelehman.com/bio)
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• Show Bio for Jose Davila
"Tuba player and trombonist Jose Davila is a versatile New York-based musician whose work spans across a broad spectrum of musical genres; everything from traditional to cutting-edge jazz, to salsa and classical music. He is currently a member of Henry Threadgill's Zooid and bands led by guitarist Liberty Ellman and alto saxophonist Steve Lehman. His work with both Threadgill and Ellman extends the tuba from its traditional role as part of the rhythm section to a front-line solo voice. His playing can also be heard on the Grammy-nominated salsa recording "Un Gran Dia en el Barrio from the Spanish Harlem Orchestra and "Remembranzas and "Siguendo la Tradicion from Soneros del Barrio.
Davila has also worked in the bands of Ray Charles, Andrew Hill, Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, Marc Anthony, Eddie Palmieri, Ray Anderson, Butch Morris, Ted Nash, along with the Lincoln Center Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra and the American Symphony and New York City Opera Orchestras.
A native of Puerto Rico who was raised on the East Coast, Jose received his formal musical training from the University of Connecticut and Mannes College of Music."-Pi Recordings (https://pirecordings.com/artist/Jose_Davila)
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• Show Bio for Jonathan Finlayson
"Jonathan Finlayson has been recognized by the New York Times as "...an incisive and often surprising trumpeter," who is "...fascinated with composition." Born in 1982 in Berkeley, CA, Finlayson began playing the trumpet at the age of ten in the Oakland public school system. He came under the tutelage of Bay Area legend Robert Porter, a veteran trumpeter from the bebop era who took Finlayson under his wing; he was often seen accompanying Porter on his gigs about town and sitting in on the popular Sunday nights jam session at the Bird Cage. He subsequently attended the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music where he studied with Eddie Henderson, Jimmy Owens and Cecil Bridgewater.
Finlayson is a disciple of the saxophonist/composer/conceptualist Steve Coleman, having joined his band Five Elements in 2000 at the age of 18. He is widely admired for his ability to tackle cutting-edge musical concepts with aplomb. Finlayson has performed and recorded in groups led by Steve Lehman, Mary Halvorson, Craig Taborn, Henry Threadgill and played alongside notables such as Von Freeman, Jason Moran, Dafnis Prieto and Vijay Iyer."-Jonathan Finlayson Website (http://jonathanfinlayson.com/biography.html)
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• Show Bio for Drew Gress
"Drew Gress (born November 20, 1959) is an American jazz double-bassist and composer born in Trenton, New Jersey, raised in the Philadelphia area, and currently based in New York City.
Gress became interested in jazz and the double bass while a teenager, joining the Pennsbury Concert Jazz Band, a nationally-prominent high school jazz ensemble, in 1975, spending two years as bassist and arranger for the group. His interest in composing original material for large ensembles, such as those of Johnny Richards, Billy May, and Pat Williams, led him to Baltimore's Towson State University in 1977, where he studied composition and counterpoint with Hank Levy, known for his work with Don Ellis and Stan Kenton. While at Towson, Gress established a playing relationship with saxophonist Ellery Eskelin, with whom he cofounded Joint Venture with Paul Smoker and Phil Haynes. They released three albums on Enja Records between 1987 and 1994.
During the 1980s in the Baltimore/Washington DC area, he played with Sonny Stitt, Clifford Jordan, Albert Dailey, Mose Allison, Zoot Sims, Cab Calloway, Buddy Hackett, Phyllis Diller, and pianist Marc Copland, with whom he still plays today. He also served on the faculties of the Peabody Conservatory, Towson State University, and the Baltimore School for the Arts. He formed a quartet, Tekke, in 1989 with David Kane, Glenn Cashman, and Michael Smith.
In 1997, he cofounded the cooperative improvising trio Paraphrase with saxophonist/composer Tim Berne and drummer Tom Rainey. Together, they pursued a compositional approach to free improvisational practice. They recorded three live albums together and toured extensively.
In 1998, he released his first album as leader, Heyday, with his band Jagged Sky (featuring David Binney, Ben Monder, and Kenny Wollesen). 2001 saw the release of Spin & Drift with Uri Caine, Berne, and Rainey, in which he played pedal steel guitar for the first time.
Earlier in the 1990s, he served tenures as artist in residence at University of Colorado-Boulder and at Russia's St. Petersburg Conservatory.
Since 1992, Gress has maintained an extensive touring schedule, traveling to Europe, Asia, and South America. Those with whom he has and continues to work include Tim Berne, Ravi Coltrane, Uri Caine, John Hollenbeck, Fred Hersch, Marc Copland, Don Byron, Steve Coleman, Dave Douglas, Jack DeJohnette, John Surman, Ray Anderson, Erik Friedlander, Kenny Werner, Bill Carrothers, Ralph Alessi, Tony Malaby, Steve Lehman, and Edsel Gomez. To date, he has appeared on over 140 recordings, 4 of which have received Grammy nominations.
Gress' own ensembles have toured Europe four times since 2002, in addition to isolated festival appearances in Italy and Portugal. In 2004, the UK's BBC Radio and London's Guardian selected his quartet's live radio broadcast as Jazz Concert of the Year.
Composition awards include an NEA grant (1990), funding from Meet the Composer (2003), a Chamber Music America New Works Grant (2005), a CMA French-American Exchange Grant (2007), and an Encore Grant from that same organization (2008). He continues to compose for larger groups and has begun experimenting with virtual synthesizers."-Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drew_Gress)
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• Show Bio for Tyshawn Sorey
"Tyshawn Sorey (born July 8, 1980 in Newark, New Jersey) is an American musician and composer who plays drum set, percussion, trombone and piano.
Since graduating from William Paterson University, Sorey has been a sought-after musician in many different musical idioms. He is both a performer and composer, and has had works reviewed in The Wire, The New York Times, The Village Voice, Modern Drummer and Down Beat. In August 2009, Sorey was given the opportunity to curate a month of performances at the Stone, a New York performance space owned by John Zorn. He was selected as an Other Minds 17 (2012).
Sorey recently completed a Master of Arts in composition at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. In the fall of 2011, he began pursuing doctoral work in composition at Columbia University.
To date, Sorey has released four albums as a leader: That/Not (2007, Firehouse 12 Records), Koan (2009, 482 Music), Oblique (2011, Pi Recordings) and Alloy (2014, Pi Recordings). He has recorded or performed with musicians including Wadada Leo Smith, Steve Coleman, Anthony Braxton, John Zorn, Steve Lehman, Joey Baron, Muhal Richard Abrams, Pete Robbins, Vijay Iyer, Dave Douglas, Butch Morris and Sylvie Courvoisier, among many others."-Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyshawn_Sorey)
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Label: Pi Recordings
Catalog ID: PI 30
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Recorded on December 22, 2008 at Systems Two in Brooklyn, NY by Mike Marciano. Mixed and Mastered January 14-15 and 22-25 at 4D, Brooklyn, NY by Liberty Ellman.
Steve Lehman-alto saxophone
Mark Shim-tenor saxophone
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1. Echoes 4:27
2. Rudreshm 4:50
3. As Things Change (I Remain The Same) 3:50
4. Dub 1:48
5. Alloy 10:11
6. Waves 5:37
7. No Neighborhood Rough Enough 6:16
8. Living In The World Today (Gza Transcription) 3:17